The season opens on the main stage of the Opera House on 7 October with Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling, a significant choice as the British choreographer would have been 80 this autumn and he died backstage in 1992 during a revival of the ballet.
Mayerling is the first of five MacMillan ballets in the season, including Romeo and Juliet (19 February–4 March) and a mixed bill of Concerto, The Judas Tree and Elite Syncopations (23 March–15 April).
Frederick Ashton, the Royal’s Founder Choreographer, features almost as prominently, with two of his full-length ballets and two short works. At Christmas, Les Patineurs is paired with Tales of Beatrix Potter for a seasonal family double bill (14 December–13 January). La Fille Mal Gardee (9 March–28 April) and Cinderella (10 April–5 June) follow in the spring.
A feature of the 2009/10 season is the relatively few ballets from the 19th century. Only The Nutcracker (26 November–1 January) and The Sleeping Beauty (23 October–23 January) pre-date 1900, with everything else either from the second half of the 20th century or completely new work.
This comes from fledgling choreographers Liam Scarlett and Jonathan Watkins, who make their first work for the main stage in Spring 2010, plus there’s a new piece by the Royal’s Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor (4–18 November). It’s a McGregor-rich season – as well as the new piece, there are also revivals of his Chroma (22 May–11 June) and Infra (19 February–4 March).
Revivals of other recent work include Kim Brandstrup’s Rushes (19 February–4 March) and Christopher Wheeldon’s Electric Counterpoint (5–15 May) and Tryst (22 May–11 June). Combine the so-so reviews the first two received with the generous number of McGregor ballets, and some will could that the chance has been lost to include more significant works from the Royal's history, particularly those by Frederick Ashton.
However, few will complain about the two works from George Balanchine (Agon, 4–18 November; Symphony in C, 22 May–11 June), and the first Royal Ballet performances of Glen Tetley’s Spinx (4–18 November). Many will welcome the return of Mats Ek’s opinion-dividing Carmen (5–15 May), although others will always think it an unusual choice for a classical ballet company.